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Consumerism is Destroying Us

Updated on December 13, 2016

All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.

— Noam Chomsky
Everything is fine, keep shopping.
Everything is fine, keep shopping.

Armaments, universal debt, and planned obsolescence—those are the three pillars of Western prosperity. If war, waste, and moneylenders were abolished, you'd collapse. And while you people are over-consuming the rest of the world sinks more and more deeply into chronic disaster.

— Aldous Huxley, Island

Vanity, Beauty, and Cosmetics

People are consumed by their own vanity. Americans spend billions of dollars every year on beauty products and it's not increasing their happiness, it's decreasing it. The more we focus on creating a fake public image of ourselves, the more we disconnect from our true selves and unhappiness follows.

  • The United States is number one in cosmetics spending. They spent a whopping $38 billion on cosmetics in 2007 yet ranked number 23 on the world's "satisfaction with life" ranking.
  • Japan is number two in cosmetics spending… and ranked 90th in satisfaction with life.

Countries such as Sweden and the Netherlands which spend the least on beauty products rank the highest in happiness. What you'll begin to notice throughout this hub is that people are being persuaded into buying items they don't want or need, while believing that they do want or need those things. Our current economy is mainly uninformed consumers making irrational decisions. While an efficient and efficacious economy would consist of consumers making rational and well informed decisions on what to purchase.

Here are some statistics on vanity:

  • The average American woman owns 30 outfits—one for every day of the month. In 1930, that figure was nine (Forbes)
  • The average American family spends $1,700 on clothes annually (Forbes)
  • While the average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year (Huffington Post)
  • In a survey carried out in 2005, 40% of 2,000 teenagers surveyed revealed they had considered some form of plastic surgery, and since then, that number has grown five-fold.

George Carlin Women Problems and more

Fast food is making Americans more sick and fat than ever before. Young Americans are likely to be the first generation with a shorter lifespan than their parents.
Fast food is making Americans more sick and fat than ever before. Young Americans are likely to be the first generation with a shorter lifespan than their parents.

Food

Food in America is known worldwide for its greasiness. In 1970 Americans were spending $6 billion on fast food, now that statistic has gone up to an ungodly $200 billion, that's a staggering 3300% increase in less than 5 decades. In that time another statistic has risen sharply in tandem, the rate of overweight adults was around 15% percent in the 70s, now we're at around 70%. So in the case of food, consumerism is destroying our health.

Overall meat consumption has continued to rise in the U.S., European Union, and developed world. Western nations have increased their meat consumption with available income, and the result has been a substantial climb in rates of morbidity and obesity related to diet and lifestyle. 1 in 4 Americans die from heart disease, and the american food industry is only exacerbating that problem.

In the ten seconds that have past since you read the statistic on meat consumption a child died of hunger. You may want to stop reading this article now, because what you have learned and will continue to learn will cause you a great amount of stress and you will feel a pressure to change your lifestyle, you may desire to remain comfortably unaware, but I urge you to continue reading. Roughly 80% of malnourished children live in developing nations which must send their grain to western nations to feed their livestock, in order to pay off debts. Meat consumption is in essence directly correlated to child starvation because there is more than enough food for everyone, but we are feeding animals that we don't need, while children starve to death.


Food Inc. Trailer

Your average American's garage looks about this bad.
Your average American's garage looks about this bad.

Toys n Stuff

America has sort of become the land of the hoarders, the land of people who have so much stuff they don't know what to do with it. My friend's uncle would just collect tools, and we'd see countless tools in his garage completely packaged and unopened. I did odd jobs for a woman back in the day, she had so much useless stuff that I couldn't really understand how she came to have possession of it. She had a roughly 800 square foot room with a 10 foot ceiling and it was packed, wall to wall, floor to ceiling, with unimaginable amounts of old junk. I'm talking suitcases, lamps, boxes, tools, old furniture, and so on. Not only that but multiple sheds full of stuff, piles of junk and lumber strewn out across the property, and this was just normal to her. Seeing that really made me think, how has our society become such a dump? It's seems to me that people care more about getting the next thing, the next piece of furniture, or the next game, or the next tv, or phone, or tool that we've become a society of hoarders.

Most of us are more than willing to acknowledge that we have more than we need, possibly even too much stuff. There is evidence of clutter all around us. The following statistics are taken from becomingminimalist.com.

  • There are 300,000 items in the average American home
  • The average size of the American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years
  • Currently, there is 7.3 square feet of self storage space for every man, woman and child in the nation.
  • 3.1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally
  • Some reports indicate we consume twice as many material goods today as we did 50 years ago
  • Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education
  • This one nearly made me puke in my mouth... Shopping malls outnumber high schools. And 93% of teenage girls rank shopping as their favorite pastime
  • And I thought the last one was bad.... Women will spend more than eight years of their lives shopping!

Just take a nice moment to appreciate that last statistic. Eight god forsaken years of the average woman's life are spent shopping. Wow.

This is the postmodern desert inhabited by people who are, in effect, consuming themselves in the form of images and abstractions through which their desires, sense of identity, and memories are replicated and then sold back to them as products

— Larry McCaffrey

Destruction

To me, the primary victim of excessive consumption is culture and connection. We may think we have culture still, but in reality it has been replaced by empty fads and trends with no real value. People are becoming fat and sick because of the stress of living in such an insane society, people need comfort food to calm themselves and they end up waking up one day without being able to see their own genitals due to their protruding gut. Women and girls have the lowest self esteem, at least from what I've seen. I've never met a girl who truly believed she was attractive, even if she was obviously a stunner. People see advertisements all the time that appeal to their insecurities and base desires, and without critically thinking about the advertisements, they've been programmed. We have so much junk and clutter in our lives that we have garage sales where we shamelessly display all of the junk we've collected over the years.

Personally I believe this consumer culture has had a real toll on our own self respect. People don't even feel embarrassed about hoarding, girls don't feel like they've gone overboard even when they have a 60 color make up set. We're doing all this at the cost of people and habitat worldwide, and generally, people are completely oblivious. It's as if the matrix is real, people are so caught up in consumption that they don't seem to notice that they're slowly killing themselves and life on earth. But this is only my rant, I'd like to see what other people think of our consumer society.

The U.S. will never be a free and happy nation while they continue to exploit and marginalize the Third World. The Third World will never be happy or free so long as there is a First World stuck in the mire of consumerism, alienation, indifference.

— Mev Puleo, The Struggle Is One: Voices and Visions of Liberation

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